No. 4 Radically alter veterinary education
Reducing the years of pre-veterinary study and streamlining veterinary school curriculum will reduce student loan debt and
better prepare graduates for their chosen veterinary path.
"Forty years ago the standard education was two years of pre-vet and four years of vet school," Volk says.
Yet there seems to be a consensus that the model for veterinary education needs to change. "I don't see any reason to have
four years of pre-vet," Paul says. "I think back to my pre-vet days, and there were maybe two or three classes of value in
terms of my veterinary education. A little bit of chemistry; a little bit of physics. But calculus? For God's sake, who needs
Felsted agrees that from a practical standpoint, communication, business, accounting and life-skill classes would benefit
today's veterinary students more than, say, classes that merely acknowledge that a student has the intellectual wherewithal
to pass them. "In my mind, that's a very easy change," she says.
Paul says veterinary curriculum should also be scrutinized, and he's not alone. "There should be two years of basic medicine
followed by two or three years of clinical medicine in a designated species field such as companion animal, bovine, swine
or equine," Volk says.
He says basic medicine should be available at every veterinary college, but colleges should develop a system to offer clinical
education in various fields based on opportunities in that field. "There's probably a need for only two or three swine programs,
but perhaps 15 or so companion animal programs," Volks says.
"We're trying to do too much," Paul says of the current educational model.
However, Paul, Felsted and Volk—and the data, for that matter—all point to one subject where pre-vet and veterinary curricula
are lacking: business. "Every veterinary school should require a minimum of three business courses, one of which is accounting,
for acceptance into veterinary school," Volk says. "And every veterinary school should offer a full year of required practice
management education, ideally during the clinical years."
So here's a thought for veterinary students or those aspiring to be veterinary students (since the politics and policies of
academia are often slow to change): take business classes. Even if you don't plan to own, even if you think the subject will
bore you to tears. Nearly all of you will have to manage significant financial debt when you graduate, all of you will need
to save for retirement, and many of you (possibly through said business classes) will find out that ownership may be the quickest
way out of debt. Well—that, or marry rich.